Last night I had the privilege of attending the pre-opening view of the second exhibition from The Cutting Room at Nottingham Playhouse. Riffing off the current theatre production of The Importance of Being Earnest, Dual examines identity and presents artists who challenge our perceptions of who we are, in physical and virtual worlds. Those of us who have different identities on Twitter and our birth certificates are already primed to find these concepts interesting. The exhibition, it would be better to call it an experience, is spread over several parts of the Playhouse. In the Cast Bar is
Particulation by Brendan Oliver. Who are you? As you can see from my image here, Brendan’s clever “digital mirror” picks out body shape and movement before deconstructing the image into visual particles which fly out into the world. Like a child I stood, moved my body and arms, feeding back into the image what I saw and what I wanted to see. The sensors are set to select a maximum of two people in range and some un-expected combinations occur as the bar population fluctuates. Brendan was behind the World’s Biggest Photo Booth at the Contemporary two years ago and other projects of his can be found on his Floating Point website. Brendan is local to Nottingham and twitter.
Moving from Cast into the Playhouse and upstairs to the exhibition area takes us into a new world: Deconstructed Metaverse 2012 by Michael Takeo Magruder. There is a large display screen and a small one near a perspex box of computer “insides”. As you looks at the display screen the image seems familiar, look up at the Playhouse wall/windows – what you see in “reality” is the image of clouds and sky on the display. Or is the display simply a copy of the exhibition space – it has the same mixture of vertical planes but constructed in a circle around an avatar. If you go to look at the Playhouse windows, close up, you find that the image is made from a “textual weave” of computer code. In fact, as Michael explained, it is the XML for the image itself. Going back into the virtual world, it is open to the world, it is run on the open source OSGrid and is publicly accessible. Jennifer Ross, one of the two curators of Dual, said that a link on the Dual website would soon appear, giving instructions on how to put your own OSGrid avatar into Michael’s world. If you already know how to do this, go to! My superficial account doesn’t do Michael’s concepts justice. As well as being an artist, he is a researcher based in the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. More information about him, and his other projects, is on his website.
Going back downstairs, all the way down to the Understudy in the Playhouse, takes us to Mirror On The Screen by Paul Sermon and Charlotte Gould. This also is a virtual reality environment, in Second Life, with the extra fun of seeing your own face when the avatar you control looks into a mirror. Or, seeing someone else in the mirror as in the photo here. Interestingly, the basic avatar in Mirror is female, while the one in Deconstructed is male. I am not a Second Lifer, but apparently it is a world devoid of mirrors. Not any more. Mirror On The Screen is also challenging in that the world it depicts has more interesting flora and fauna – flying fish here really do move through the ether. Like the Deconstructed Metaverse, Mirror On The Screen is publicly accessible in Second Life, so if you are part of that world, why not drop in?
Also in the understudy are showings of the Film Programme which runs along with the Digital Stage programme. And separately, the Sigma 6 animation by Kim Stewart, a UK artist who is part of the World Event Young Artists event, starting next week. I enjoyed watching her short film.
Dual is open Monday – Saturday 1pm-close. Clare Harris and Jennifer Ross are the curators. The twitter name is not for the typographically challenged: @TheCUTTINGR00M (note the zeros).
As usual, Oscar had something to say about all this. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, another of his works dealing with identity and representation, he says “I am tired of myself to-night. I should like to be somebody else.” Go to the Playhouse and be someone else.
John is one of our team of bloggers. He can be reached on john AT creativenottingham.com and followed on Twitter @johnwithbeard. He is not in Second Life as he is still struggling with his First Life.